Ode to my father

[UPDATE: It’s Father’s Day, 2015.  It’s been 5 years since I wrote this. I added some more thoughts at the end.]

Father’s Day is upon us.  My dad passed away recently and of course my thoughts turn to him today.

He had a certain style and flair, even in his last act.  He passed away on April 19 at 89 years old.  On the first day of my new job in Prague.  In the midst of the volcanic eruptions.  Imagine the challenge of getting to Canada in time for his funeral when only 750,000 of my closest friends were stranded too.  Thankfully, I made it.

He was a man of profound gifts and talents.  Certainly one of the smartest people I’ve ever known.  That’s saying something given my 24 years in high tech surrounded by smart, highly educated people.  He’d recite formulas and theorems for his grandchildren, a couple of whom were educated as engineers.  They were surely stunned that he remembered the stuff they were trying so hard to learn in college.

He had a clear, tuneful voice and probably could have been an accomplished performer had he put his mind to it.

He was an athlete, though I’m not sure he ever fancied himself as one.  Just a few years ago, he laced up his old hockey skates, which were the consistency of golf glove leather.  Soft.  No support.  He stepped on the ice and proceeded to glide the length of the rink with a couple of strides.  Amazing.

He learned golf at the age of 40 and became better than 95% of those who play the game.  Most people who play that well start very young when it’s much easier to learn.

His career took him around the world many times over, and he knew a lot about a lot of cultures and places.

For all of these gifts, he was human too.  I sometimes think that the smartest have a hard time enduring the rest of us.  He didn’t suffer fools.  I wouldn’t want to be on the other side of an argument with him at work, just as I didn’t at home.

Age made my father wiser and mellower.  And it’s the latter part of his life I most want to emulate.

May we all be so gifted, and learn the humility to match.

Happy Father’s Day.

UPDATE: It’s Father’s Day, 2015.  I’ve been working away at my start-up for almost 3 years now.  Being a CEO and leader has illustrated for me – and those around me – all of the ways in which I’m both flawed and talented.  My dad was about my present age when I was a teen, when I experienced his mid-aged intensity in all its glory.  More than ever, I know I am my Father’s son.

3 generations: my parents, my son and me
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15 thoughts on “Ode to my father

  1. donnie , that is so nice and fitting for dad. i plan to buy a tree for our backyard that will remind us of him every day ! xo janet

  2. Well said, Don. I still miss my father everyday and it has been almost 7 years. You might not be surprised to know that he taught me that growing old is inevitable, but growing up purely optional. I hope all is well in Czech land and that you soon have business in LaLa.

  3. Very nicely done Don. So strange not to be able to call and talk to dad today. Happy fathers day to you! I hope all is well.
    Ian

  4. Great job Don in capturing what was an illustrious career and an amazing family
    experience. I am sure that he wouldn’t have traded it for anything else on earth.
    Neil

  5. Don, this is a wonderful summary of your dad — wish I could have known him. Sounds like he was pretty “spunky” growing up — would love to hear some stories 🙂

  6. Well done Don. An eloquent and moving tribute to your Dad. I am sorry to hear of his passing.
    I hope all is well with you, Nic and Clive.

    Johnny Nick

  7. Beautiful… I hope I deserve my children will write something just half as nice, when it is my turn…
    I know how much he meant to you, and I am a sorry that I didn’t see this before now…

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